26 October 2023 | Story VALENTINO NDABA | Photo PEXELS
mental health during exam season
Ensuring good mental wellbeing is very important ahead of and during exam periods.

As the exam season approaches, students across the board face large amounts of extra stress and anxiety. Examinations carry tremendous weight in determining students’ prospects, making it a time of immense pressure.

The Department of Student Counselling and Development (SCD) at the University of the Free State (UFS) has been a steadfast source of support to its students since the SCD's establishment in 1977. SCD offers an array of free services to all registered students across the Bloemfontein, South, and Qwaqwa campuses, regardless of their level of study, whether undergraduate or postgraduate.

SCD's primary objective is to cultivate a deep understanding of holistic mental health within the UFS community and address wellness concerns effectively. This mission is pursued through individual therapy sessions, group sessions, workshops, developmental programmes, and career counselling. The department also plays a pivotal role in knowledge production, evidence-based interventions, and mental health innovations, contributing significantly to students’ mental wellbeing.

Academic wellbeing 

To coincide with the exam season and World Mental Health Awareness Month in October, SCD offers academic-wellbeing resources tailored to students to help them become ‘Wellbeing Warriors’. These resources include guides such as 'Taming Test and Exam Anxiety’, 'I Don't Know How to Study’, and 'Where Is My Time Going?'. These resources are designed to equip students with the tools they need to manage the stress and anxiety that often accompany exams.

Taming Test and Exam Anxiety

According to Nadia Maloney, Senior Counselling Psychologist and Acting Assistant Director of SCD, “Common test anxiety symptoms include heart palpitations, sweaty palms, difficulty breathing, feeling overwhelmed, irritability, fatigue, and sleeping difficulties. We’re probably in agreement that experiencing any of these symptoms is highly uncomfortable, not conducive to an ideal learning environment, and can affect your exam outcome.”

The 'Taming Test and Exam Anxiety' guide, compiled by Maloney, emphasises the importance of mitigating these symptoms to create an ideal learning environment in order to achieve better exam outcomes.

I Don't Know How to Study

For those who find themselves struggling with study methods, Lize van den Bergh, a Senior Counselling Psychologist, has created the 'I Don't Know How to Study' guide, which underscores the significance of adapting to the university's unique challenges early on, offering valuable tips and techniques to enhance study skills.

Where Is My Time Going?

The 'Where Is My Time Going?' guide, also crafted by Van den Bergh, tackles the issue of time management. It offers practical advice for students who often feel that time is slipping through their fingers due to various commitments and responsibilities. “Study methods consist of many important behaviours and techniques. Because university is different to school, the sooner you learn how to adapt to these changes, the better you will manage,” Van den Bergh said.

As stress and anxiety levels peak around exam time, the importance of studying smart, not just hard, cannot be stressed enough. Students looking for further assistance can reach out to the SCD Office via the provided contact details:

+27 51 401 2853 / SCD@ufs.ac.za (Bloemfontein Campus)
+27 51 505 1989 / SCDSouth@ufs.ac.za (South Campus) 
+27 58 718 5125 / SCDQQ@ufs.ac.za (Qwaqwa Campus)
+27 800 00 6363 / 24/7 Toll-free UFS Student Careline 

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